A Department of Social Services employee was taken into custody due to her failure to report the abuse and neglect of a vulnerable patient. The DSS employee observed an elderly woman starving to death and living in deplorable conditions but did nothing to report or prevent the patient’s continued deterioration. State law creates an affirmative obligation on DSS employees to report such abuse and neglect.
The employee faces up to one year in prison. Additionally, the deprived woman’s caretakers face two counts of abuse and neglect of a vulnerable adult, with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. This case should be a reminder to anyone who is responsible for elder care that, if you observe any negligence or malpractice, it is both a moral and legal duty to report substandard care. Improving the level of care older patients are given requires caretakers, especially those in nursing homes, to remember that their primary duty is to their patients, not their employer.